Tuesday, April 23, 2019

And Now... An Exhale.

I have been quiet around the internet for a few weeks. I haven't had much to say outwardly, but I've had a lot of internal dialogues and today I will share some of them.

First of all, I'm totally ok and not sick. I won't write the entire story only to tell you at the end that I'm ok. I'm not that cruel.  :)

On March 21st I went to my yearly wellness exam and my doctor found a lump in my right breast. I don't have a history of breast cancer in my family. I was taken aback and didn't really know what to think at the time. My doctor ordered a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. He also asked for a surgeon consult appointment. As soon as I got back home, I called to make the mammogram & ultrasound appointment. They wanted to do them at the same time, and the first ultrasound appointment I could get was 4/17. So yea, I had to wait almost a month.

About 1.5 weeks after my wellness exam, I had an appointment with my regular doctor again to remove a mole. The mole was new in the last couple of years, and was slowly getting bigger. The morning of that appointment, I was overcome by anxiety. I had been doing ok, but the mole appointment triggered the anxiety that I'm prone to, and it bubbled to the surface. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I got to the appointment and got my mole removed. I told my doctor that the long waiting period between him discovering my lump and my ultrasound appointment is causing me anxiety. He prescribed me the same medication that I took for a year after my mom died, when I had anxiety attacks.  (The mole turned out to be benign.)

During the waiting time, all kinds of thoughts went through my mind. I didn't tell my own family what was happening. I figured I didn't need to worry them excessively unless there really was something to worry about. The only people who knew were Todd and Peppermint. I told Peppermint because not only is she a good friend, but she had gone through something similar a couple of years ago. She reassured me that I've done everything right. I got my yearly mammograms and it's not like something was festering for a long time. That is something that I'm fierce about, because my mom never went to the doctor for checkups, and they found her cancer too late. When she passed away, I actually experienced some anger because of that.

I'm a planner by nature, so as weird and grim and it sounds, I was planning for the worst case scenario. Todd and I had long walk & talks about wills & trusts. I wondered who would want my huge collection of crafting supplies.

In my heart I thought about what I would want to do if I only had a certain amount of time left. I was also mad because I had worked hard my entire life and a few months after I "retired" this happens??! WTF?? But I also had a strange sense of peace because I knew that I had lived a good life so far and had no regrets. Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I wasn't afraid to die. I was afraid of dying a terrible and painful death though. And I really didn't want to leave Todd, my sister, my dad. Todd and I always smile when we see an old couple walk hand-in-hand down the street, and we tell each other that would be us someday. I wasn't ready to let go of that dream.

I had my mammogram and ultrasound last Wednesday. The technicians were ladies and they were some of the kindest people, given what they do. They were gentle and calm. While in the waiting room, I saw a lady leave her appointment with a big smile on her face. She told the ultrasonist that she thought it would take a couple of days to get the results. The ultrasonist replied, "We wouldn't do that to you. We tell you right away." So before going in, I knew I would know. Both the mammographer and ultrasonist didn't give a clue to me as to what they were seeing though, so I was getting anxious and could feel the anxiety bubbling up again. The ultrasonist went to confer with the radiology doctor as I waited. Finally she came back and said, "we're done, you can leave. We didn't see anything concerning. Sometimes you can have extra dense breast tissue in certain areas."

I ran out of there to Todd in the waiting room. We celebrated the possibility of being an old couple walking hand-in-hand by eating some Indian food and ice cream. Todd is a pragmatic and calm person, so he never got nervous or anxious during the 4 weeks. However, I could tell he was excited to hear the good news.

My doctor told me to still keep the surgeon consult appointment, because he wants the surgeon to feel the lump. That appointment was today. It took five minutes. He said sometimes you could have more dense breast tissue and it's nothing to worry about.

And now I can finally exhale.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Noodle’s Close Call with a Bee

On Saturday, Noodle got stung by a bee on his right eyelid!  A bee had gotten through our chimney and Noodle chased after it, not knowing what a bee was.  The bee stung him on his right eyelid.  He ran around in pain.  Finally Todd got a hold of him and immobilized him while I took the stinger out with a tweezer. He’s been ok since then, no allergy or lasting effects. Thank goodness! We were ready to take him to the emergency vet if he showed signs of distress afterwards. Poor little Noodle.

On Monday (April Fool’s Day!) I had a doctor’s appointment to get a mole removed and biopsied.  I had a new mole on the back of my left wrist and it was growing.  So my doctor decided to take it out and get it sent to pathology.  Thankfully, I got the word on Thursday that it is benign!

I spent a lot of time last week crocheting some soap scrubbies, which is like a soap pouch combined with a wash cloth.  I’ll be selling my hand-crocheted soap scrubbies with some soaps as a gift set at the end of April in my Pacifica Grace Studio shop!  They will make really cute teacher gifts!

I also spent a lot of time formulating some new products that will be included in a gift box for Mother’s Day in my store.  I’m excited to create the products!  This month’s product release will be delayed until 4/29 due to the number of products I’ll be offering.  It will also be the last new product release until September.  I’ll be taking the summer off, since the majority of the products that I ship will melt in shipment in the summer.  I will do product restockings by request, if it’s something that won’t melt in summer shipment.

The weekend before last weekend, Todd and I went to Meet Fresh again for Taiwanese dessert.  This time we got the taro ball ice bowl.  It was yummy & chewy!

This past week Todd organized a couple of social outings with coworkers and ex-coworkers.  I love how good he is about catching up with people and bringing fun into the workplace.  On Wednesday at lunch, he and his coworkers went to the newly opened Salt & Straw at One Paseo for some ice cream!

Then on Wednesday night, he had dinner with his ex-coworkers Andy and Cecile at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

On Saturday, we went to lunch at Santouka Ramen, one of our favorite ramen places around here.  We went there because I wanted to go to Mitsuwa Market to buy some matcha latte mixes.  The trip was a success, as the ramen was delicious and I found the matcha latte that I was looking for!

Yesterday Todd ran his annual favorite trail race, the Xterra Black Mountain 15k Trail Run.  He did well!  As always, I’m super-proud of him.  I tried to find parking at the venue so I could take photos of him at the finish, but there was no parking, it was completely full.  So the photos of him are courtesy of his friend Amy, who ran the 5k and placed 2nd in her age group!  The run looked extra scenic this year with all the wildflowers we got from the winter rains!

After a shower, we went to Todd’s usual post-race meal, Phil’s BBQ!

For the last month, blogging has been very tedious due to Google disconnecting it’s photos API.  I despise the clunky Blogger interface and had been using Open Live Writer to do all my blog posts.  I used to be able to just drag and drop photos into Open Live Writer and blogging was so easy.  Now I have to go through a whole convoluted route to get photos to post correctly and it is taking me 3x as long to blog each post.  I’m super-frustrated with the situation.  As if having the motivating to blog isn’t enough, now I have to contend with the difficulties of getting photos into my blog posts correctly.  I’m definitely considering migrating to Wordpress.  If any of you have had experience migrating from Blogger to Wordpress, please share with me!

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

High Tea at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes

My friend Anne treated me to high tea at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes for my birthday.  We went at 11 am on Friday, March 29th.  I had never been to any high teas before, so this was an exciting new experience that I was anticipating!  Thank you Anne for the incredible treat!

Anne made reservation ahead of time.  They have high tea seatings from 11-1 and then 2-4.  They have limited seating so a reservation is a must.  When we arrived, I was enthralled with the fresh floral decorations and classy ambiance.

We were given a tea selection menu and we picked a pot of Paris tea to share.  The description for the tea:  Fruity black tea with vanilla and caramel flavors, and a hint of lemony Bergamot.   Oh man, it was so good! 

And how cute are the tea cups, creamer, and sugar cups?

Our tea came and I tried to do the pinky up but ended up with pinky down anyway!

I think Anne was better at it than me, ha ha.

Our first course was Hot Vichyssoise Soup with Puff Twist (Creamy potato and leek soup).  It was quite flavorful and delicious.

Then they brought out the three-tiered plates of awesomeness! 

The bottom tier was filled with little sandwiches and savory puff pastry and quiche.  There was:
  • Cucumber & Dill Sandwich – refreshing cucumber sandwich with dill
  • Mini-Beef Wellington – tender beef, with mushroom, in puff pastry
  • Blue Cheese Marscapone and Red Onion Confit Quiche – caramelized red onion quiche with Gorgonzola cheese
  • Chicken Pistou Sandwich – chicken salad with pistou, a mixture of garlic, basil, and olive oil
  • Nicoise Salad Sandwich – sandwich filled with tuna, egg, baby potato, haricot vert, and tomato

The second tier was filled with fruit and scones.  The strawberry & lemon scone was a cream scone with fresh strawberries, topped with lemon glaze.  It was very good!

The third tier was desserts and everything looked so pretty!  There were:
  • Kentucky Butter Crunch Cake – moist buttermilk cake soaked in cream cheese glaze, with almond & coconut crunch topping
  • Lemon Meringue Bar – luscious lemon bar topped with meringue
  • Brownie Cookies & Cream Trifle – dense brownie layered with Oreo crumbs and whipped cream
  • Vanilla Panna Cotta Tart – biscuit topped with smooth & creamy Italian custard

Anne doesn’t like chocolate (!) so I got to take a couple of the desserts home for Todd.  Everything was so exquisite and unique, and also delicious.  I really enjoyed my first high tea experience!  I’m so glad Anne invited me.  I really appreciate friends who take the initiative to make time to do something together.  As adults it seems hard to find time to see friends, but any time I can get together with a friend is truly appreciated!
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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Neck Deep in Finishing 2018 Taxes

I spent about four full days this week doing our 2018 taxes.  I knew when the tax law changed for 2018 that it was not going to be favorable for us.  I was right.  The new tax law disproportionally punishes people who live in high cost of living states/areas.  We pay SO MUCH California state income tax AND property tax and it used to be completely deductible.  For 2018 that specific deduction got capped at $10,000.  For us, that means that $15,000 of state and local taxes that we paid is now NOT DEDUCTIBLE.  Which caused our tax bill to increase by about $4,000.  That is very punishing.  I am NOT pleased at all.  Like I said, when I read the tax reform, I knew it was not favorable to us, but now it’s quantifiably unfavorable.  Thanks Trump.

I also had to learn how to do taxes as a small business owner.  There was so much to learn and a steep learning curve.  Startup costs can be a one-time write-off.  I had to figure out my end of 2018 inventory $ amount for both raw materials and finished products.  I had to calculate Cost of Good Sold directly associated with every product I produced.  I kept very good records so it was easier than someone who may not have kept good records.  But this first year was still quite a learning curve and tedius.  However, now I know exactly what categories go into what on the tax forms and I can cater my record-keeping to that, so that next year when we do our taxes for 2019 it will be easier!  No wonder people hire tax accountants to do their taxes.  I am an accountant but NOT a tax accountant, but I’ve never hired someone to do our taxes.  I always feel like I know enough to do our own taxes.  Plus I feel like gathering all the financial info is already half the time, so why not just enter them all myself?  Anyway, glad they are done and filed!  We ended up oweing some federal taxes and getting some state taxes back.  It was not a horrible result, but it was a $4,000 difference than if the tax laws did not change.  I feel like there is no incentive to purchase or own a house in high cost of living states now.  If we can’t deduct those taxed amounts then who would want to own a house?  No wonder our housing prices have seen a downturn, and nobody is buying!

Some brighter topics… I’ve had these flowers for a couple of weeks now.  They are finally wilting.  My good friend Meera gave them to me when she took me out for birthday breakfast!

I did a good amount of cleaning last week.  It felt really good to get a couple of areas cleaned up.  I sure wish houses didn’t dirty themselves, LOL.  On the weekend, we went for a walk along the coast.  It was a really nice day and we had an important conversation.  Walking outside is my favorite, but I don’t seem to do it enough!

Last weekend we tried out a new dumpling restaurant called Harmony Potsticker.  We thought it was decent.  The potstickers were good!  Todd had regular pork potstickers while I had shrimp and chive potstickers.

We also got some tofu soup and smashed cucumbers.  The tofu soup was good but the smashed cucumbers were not our favorite.

On Sunday, Todd spent a few hours making his world famous triple chocolate mousse cake so that he could bring it to work for a project-ending celebration on Monday.  It was as good as I remembered it!

It had a base layer of flourless chocolate cake, followed by a layer of whipped chocolate mousse, then topped with whipped white chocolate mousse,  It was as amazing as it looked!  Many of Todd’s coworkers said it was restaurant quality cake!

This past Monday I went to Costco to stock up on some stuff, but also to get my passport photo taken!  I need to renew my passport so we can take a trip later this year to celebrate our (gulp) TWENTY-FIFTH wedding anniversary!  I really can’t believe it’s been that long.

On Wednesday my friend Erecca, from where I used to work, took me out to lunch at Gor Gai for my birthday.  It’s my favorite Thai food around here.  It was fun to see her and catch up! 
On Thursday I received a super awesome package in the mail from my friend Peppermint for my birthday!  She picked out a Happy Planner for me and it’s perfect!  I haven’t been scrapbooking but this planner style of decorating with stickers and jotting down stuff seems like it will be fun!

Since it’s an 18-month planner from July 2019 to December 2020, she also got me an undated extension so I can start to use it immediately in April.  So nice!  I’ve already put date stickers on all the monthly and weekly pages in the extension so I’m ready to go for April!  So excited!
Then yesterday (Friday) my friend Anne treated me to high tea at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes for my birthday!  (I am so so blessed with caring friends who seemed to have celebrated me all month long.  I don’t take it for granted at all, and I’m super-touched and thankful.)  I had NEVER been to high tea before and was so delighted at this new experience.  Here’s a sneak peek at it.  I will be writing a post about it in a couple of days.

Here’s a cute Noodle photo to finish off the post!

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Friday, March 22, 2019

Financial Friday | Get Paid What You’re Worth


Last week we talked about taking care of your Future Self by paying a percent of your paycheck to your Future Self.  So how do you save more money?

Savings is simply the gap between your income and your expenses.  If you can increase your income and reduce your expenses, then the amount of money you can save increases.  It sounds fairly simple, but there are all kinds of psychological and emotional factors at play here.  What I’m going to share with you today may sound like career advice, but it has a huge financial impact.

Girl, you need to get paid what you’re worth. 

Most companies are not there to take care of you.  They aren’t looking at your salary and saying, “Oh look at Mary, she’s working so hard.  And oh look, she’s being paid below market.  Let’s give her a 10% raise!”  Nope.  Companies pretty much look out for themselves.  You need to know what the prevailing market salary range is for your type of position, and you need to make sure you get paid what you’re worth. 

Recently, I’ve had a couple of friends talk about how hard it is for them to quantify how much to charge people for their services.  They shy away from discussing their rates.  They cringe when they think about putting a dollar value on their time.  I think as women, we need to understand our value.  Even if you don’t work outside the home, you need to understand the value you are providing for your family.  How much would it cost to hire house cleaner, cook, childcare, etc. if you were not providing these things?  It’s not free!  So as employees, we need to understand the value we are providing to our workplace, and make sure we are getting paid properly.

Out of the nine promotions/raises (outside of normal cost of living adjustments) that I’ve received in my 25 year career, only two of them were just given to me.  The other seven times, I either pursued higher paying positions within the company, or asked for a raise/promotion. 

I remember the first time I asked for a raise, I was so nervous.  I was 28 years old and had just received my MBA degree while working full time.  I didn’t get a raise after getting my master’s degree.  I looked around at what companies in the area were offering new MBA grads without work experience and discovered that they were being hired at a higher starting salary than what I was making.  And not only did I have an MBA, I had five years of work experience!  So I wrote up a memo to my manager at the time, asking for a specific amount of salary, backed up with my data.  I nervously sent the email right before I left the office the night before.  The next morning I was called into my manager’s office and he was angry.  He asked me, “Are you intereviewing elsewhere?  Do you have another job offer?”  I said, “No, I just wanted to ask for a raise because new MBA hires are being hired in at a higher salary than what I’m making.”  He immediately softened and looked relieved.  You know why?  He thought I had another job offer and that he was going to lose me.  I was valuable.  So we talked more about the data, and he said he would talk to HR about it.  A few days later, I got my raise.  It was really hard to put myself out there, basically saying that I deserved to get paid what the position is worth.  But I knew that I would not be happy working there if I didn’t do it. 

After that first time, each time got a little easier.  I always researched first into what the market salary data showed for my type of position.  During the year, I would document all my accomplishments so that I had quantifiable evidence of performing at the next level.  I’ve also learned the sad fact that most of the time in the corporate world, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Yes, it’s possible they can say no.  But then you know where you stood and can pursue other opportunities if that’s what you choose. 

I’ve had friends say, ‘Yea, but I don’t want to make so much money that I stand out when they’re looking for people to lay off.”  This is actually quite a prevalent sentiment.  I have two answers for that.  First, you have to make yourself so valuable that nobody would think that your salary is not worth it.  One of the best career advice that I’ve ever received from a manager is “Always add-value to the process”.  She said, “When you send me a spreadsheet, don’t just send it and make me look at the numbers.  A monkey can do that.  Tell me the main things I need to know to make a decision based on the data, and even give me your opinion of the best two or three decisions.”  VPs and executives don’t have time to look at numbers and come to conclusions themselves.  I always took it upon myself to tell them what the data actually MEANS, what decision they need to make, and what my suggestion would be.  My job was not to be a spreadsheet jockey, my job was to be a major financial partner to the decision makers of the company.  Once the decision makers of the company know your value to them, they won’t hesitate to pay you what you’re worth.  Really.
Secondly, if you’ve been paid higher salaries the last few years and become laid off, so what?  It’s better than having been paid below market for all those years.  You have the money in the bank now.  Go find youself another job where they value your contributions.  It sounds flippant, but it’s true.  Don’t let the fear of making more money stand in the way. 

So let’s look at what the difference is between just getting maybe four promotions/raises in your 25 year career versus nine, the five additional promotions being that you received them because you asked for them.

That’s a 25 year lifetime earnings difference of almost $220k that you can take to the bank!  That’s not even including interest.  If you invested the difference in the earnings, you would have much more than $220k more.

Considering that earnings (just like investing) is not linear and is compounding.  The more you can earn early on in your career, the higher your lifetime earnings will be.  Because every single raise you get is based on your previous salary.  So when you get that 10% raise, the next year your 3% cost of living adjustment is based on your salary including the extra 10% you got last year.  So if you make $100k (just to make the math simple) and you asked for a 10% raise, you make $110k.  Then next year your 3% adjustment equals $3,300 ($110,000 x 3%) instead of $3,000 ($100,000 x 3%) than if you hadn’t asked for the 10% raise.  This compounding is what makes your lifetime earnings so much more if you get nine raises/promotions instead of four!

Now we’ve covered the increasing your earnings part of the savings equation.  Yes, there are many other ways to make more money, including side hustles, freelancing, turning a hobby into money, etc.  But to me, the most impactful way to make more money is to actually concentrate on your career, make yourself valuable, and asking for more pay. 
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Sure Feels Like Spring Now!

Todd and I went to the beach for a walk yesterday, because it was sunny and 72 degrees.  We haven’t hit the 70’s in two months, which is quite unusual for San Diego.  It was simply beautiful there!  And lots of other locals had the same idea and headed to the beach too.

This past week, my birthday celebration continued for a little bit.  On Monday on my actual birthday, I spent the day making things, which makes me the happiest!  I made a bunch of new products for my Pacifica Grace Studio’s March product release this past Friday.

If you’re interested in purchasing something, you can receive 10% off by signing up for my newsletter.  I will push the latest newsletter with the 10% subscriber discount code out to you when you subscribe.  The code is good through Thursday 3/21.

On Tuesday night Todd and I went to see the Captain Marvel movie at AMC.  Our local AMC has reserved reclining (heated!) seats now.  They also serve real food too!  And every Tuesday is $5 tickets, even for new release movies.  Such a great deal!  We enjoyed the movie and we’re now excited for Avengers: End Game to come out in April!

Todd surprised me with a new color laser printer for my birthday.  I had wanted one for my business so that my labels would look extra nice.  My colored inkjet was sort of on its last legs and being temperamental.  I used my new color laser printer for my product labels last week and they look AWESOME!  I was very excited.  And so grateful for a supportive husband.

On Saturday we went to lunch at Taste of Hunan with Todd’s work friends Emily and Sean.  We forgot to take photos of our food and of each other.  Whenever that happens I tell Todd, “It’s like it never happened!”  I hate photo regrets.  We ate a bunch of authentic Chinese dishes in family style, meaning sharing all the dishes.  It’s the best way so everyone can try everything!  Loved the meal.  I had never met Emily or Sean before.  They are in their 20’s.  At one point in the conversation, we were talking about something and I said, "Yea, it's like the Soup Nazi!" :: blank stares :: I continued, "You know, from Seinfeld". :: more blank stares :: Oh my, I am old.

Yesterday we went to lunch at Mendocino Farms, because it was a warm day and we felt like eating salads.  We LOVE their Impossible Salad there.

The funny thing about that is, the first time we had it, we didn’t even realize that it’s not real meat and the entire salad is vegan.  It’s THAT good!

Todd had a lunch last week with some work friends.

He also got a haircut.  Every time he gets a haircut, we get to eat our favorite Indian food Punjabi Tandoor for dinner, because it’s near haircut place and Todd brings the food home.  Needless to say, I ate well for my birthday week, LOL.

This morning, my sweet friend Meera treated me to a belated birthday breakfast at Original Pancake House.  She brought me a bouquet of beautiful flowers, a card, and some chocolate!  I’m beyond blessed by her friendship.  And every time we talk, she says something about me that makes me feel special and loved.  Something that makes me take heart and say, “She gets me.  She understands me.”  That right there is a special friend!

(BTW, I probably need to up my eyebrow game?  It looks like I have none!

Some Noodle cuteness for this week!

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